She sits atop a stoop with four descending stairs built for a home that does not belong to her; quite possibly, this is her sanctuary, her patch of reprieve from the unforgiving pavement. One could hardly say she lives in the neighborhood; one, however, could tell she was alive. A dusty, sweat-stained cap concealed the matted straw hair descending from her lice-ridden scalp. Shoulders bare, a spaghetti strap shirt held on by a single spaghetti. Under the half-worn shirt were two large rotund breasts unsupported and left to do as they may. The force of gravity is unkind to those who have nothing to catch them once descending. A collection of mismatched sweatshirts tied in one tangled knot draped around her waist, all of which served little utility save the times she needed to wipe her hands or wipe herself after defecating in the alley. These worn-out garments made up most of her fleeting possessions; retention is impossible when one cannot maintain their mind. A single black trash bag appearing to be industry grade served as a sort of pant, two holes in the bottom cut wide enough to fit her portly legs. What was left of her fingerless gloves cover what was by any indication a pair of unkempt palms. Her dried, cracked digits extended through the gloves. They had black and green inch-long nails on the ends. She ate from a Styrofoam take-out tray; these same fingers served as her utensils. The shoes, which seemed to make me notice her the most, were worn beyond repair. The tongues flayed out no laces to keep them together, both of which seemed a size too small.

I love her. Not the sort of love man has for another who excites passions or exemplifies values, but for what we had in common. I had no idea of her age as the caked-on grime appeared to age her out of any reasonable estimation. She seemed to look through me as I passed on my way to the liquor store for the second time before sunset. She would smile, and her bottom eyelid would reach the top, yet somehow, her eyes remained uncovered. Glossed over, looking but not seeing. I had been up since the sun rose and failed to say goodnight to the sky’s last moon. She seemed ever so content in her squalor, in her abject filth lacking any care for the rat’s nest she called a body, for we cared little of our respective selves. I was only upright due to a turn of fortunate events, and what separated us was not a series of the next right choice, but rather dumb luck. Dumb fucking luck that a small-town kid who by all measures should have his shit together was not in the same crashing current that she found herself thrashing in. You see, I had laces in my shoes.

I passed her often, always offering a smile or a half-assed attempt at cordiality. On some days, she seemed more present than others, and even though I attempted, I felt no better than those who looked away when confronted with her presence. Many saw her and offered no helping hand, not even a look of remorse or sorrow for her position. Indifference is commonplace in a metropolitan city as large as we shared. Trim options when a person who is unfit for this world are thrust into the reality of circling the drain. Should I offer my shirt? I have many and some I rarely use, clothing I wouldn’t notice once gone or misplaced. Should I offer a few dollars for a warm meal, presumably the product of a grease trap? What good would that do? How much sustenance can be derived from a single meal? I could not bring this woman home as I was unwilling, and the coldness of my roommate would indeed be extended in the invitation. She required love, which I was in no position to give as I was fresh out even for myself. As so many others do, I found it easier to pass with discontent and harbor a pinch of bitterness as to the fact she even exists, adding to the refuse that plagues the streets outside of manicured lawns and six-foot iron gates. So ironic that beauty exists in such a soiled soul. One must wash her multiple times to find it, but I know for sure it is there. She lives; therefore, she is beautiful and worthy of redemption, but the burden that entails retrieval is more cumbersome than the care I extended even to myself. Society finds it easier not by choice but by the lack of will to let another one go. There is great difficulty in mustering courage, and ignoring one’s conscience is more advantageous in the short run.

One year later, I imagine she occupies the same space as the alternative is much to bear and seemingly all too common. What is most tragic is that there is but one conclusion, enveloped in addiction and mental illness. There are seldom those who receive the help they need. I genuinely ponder that death is the preferable outcome as the life she leads is not sought even by those who live it. I suppose life and death are relative, but the fact remains that life ought to be lived. In other words, people have to give a shit for some not to decay and die in the street. Man is not suited to rely on himself solely and is entirely ill-equipped to seek and ask for the help he needs. After all, there is comfort in a slow death, for there exists freedom in indulgence. Still, like the walls of my life during that time, they close in fast, and before long, the suffocation becomes adaptable, life finds a way. To the extent an individual becomes rotted out and hollow, they tend to carry on until they do not. Life is quite simple really, carry on or die but how one carries on is not so simple; life continues, or it does not, and in moments such as these, for this degraded woman carries on, carries on, on Western and McLean.